Perren Blackett Law
An Association of Independent Law Practices


A call for “less”

I talk to a lot of employees.  Friends, family, clients - most people are employees or have been at one time.

As we start 2017, my impression is that a lot of non-unionized Alberta employees are uncomfortable. 

Uncomfortable is an improvement over fearful. 

Fear marked the workplace in 2016 - fear of downsizing, re-organization, re-structuring, lay-off, capital cost cutting, divestiture, etc.  In 2016, all synonymous with loosing a job. 

In 2016 a lot of Alberta employees lost their job.  We’re told to be optimistic in 2017.

the worst is over; most cuts are done; we’ll see an improvement this year; Alberta is poised for a comeback… 

I am optimistic, and I am uncomfortable too.

How does leadership help calm employees' nervousness in such uncertain times?  In my view, it is reasonably simple.  Communicate.  The more I speak with people, the more it appears clear that employees are desperate for clear, open, honest communication from leadership about the health of their organizations.  

I appreciate this is not always easy for leadership, or even possible.

This is my call for less.  Less platitudes, less punchy town-hall meetings, less glossy HR posters and whiz-bang new practices, less change for the sake of change, less false optimism, just… less.

Instead, I wonder if leadership can and should acknowledge that things seem to be moving in the right direction in Alberta.  It may be too early, but can leadership demonstrate cautious optimism and at the same time acknowledge that there may be more cuts; there may be more loss; and there will be an aversion to spending?  

Is the cure to uncomfortable to make no promises, but just be honest?

I don't know.  However, my hope for 2017 is that employers will embrace cautious, slow, measured growth, and will recognize with their workforce that there will be less.